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Speed up Action Sequence Creation in Animation


Hi I’m Adolf Navarro, and this time I want to show you how one single person can create very cool action sequences in a short period of time using iClone and the characters and models of Reallusion’s Content Store.

The main advantage of Reallusion animation applications is that they are extremely easy to learn and use, so the animation process becomes very intuitive and fast, all the same, the final result can be pretty cool even getting a nice cinematic aspect just using few filters in the video editing phase. Almost no post production or compositing are needed.

The tutorial video:

First of all we have to build the sets. Using Reallusion 3DXchange we can import any FBX, OBJ, 3DS or SketchUp file and convert them in iClone’s native format.

But Reallusion also has its own Content Store with tons of high quality models and characters, featuring low polygon meshes and PBR textures especially designed for real time animation, and mostly, that’s what I have used in this video.

The Gladiators Revolt

Special Feature:  How transparent videos help to manage crowded combat scenes

For the Gladiators combat I used the Fantasy Pack Rome props to build a simulation of an ancient Roman village, street and I completed the scene with one of the standard Skies included in iClone. (know more about medieval world)

I created the characters in Reallusion’s Character Creator (CC) and to speed up the process I used the Realistic Human 100 pack, to load different faces and skin tones to my characters with one single click. In any case, any character can be easily modified using CCsliders, allowing us to generate an infinite number of human characters. 

I dressed up part of my characters using the Gladiator packs 1 and 2. One fantastic feature of Character Creator is that the clothes applied to the characters are automatically conformed to the shape of the character.  And, if you modify the shape after the cloth has been applied, again it’s conformed automatically to new shape. 

In the same way I used the Imperator and Roman Soldier packs to dress the Roman army soldiers. I imagined a kind of Spartacus sequence where some Gladiators rebelled against the Roman soldiers, so I needed the combat motion clips to apply into the characters.

I found the perfect solution in the Sword & Shield Combat Combo. Those pre recorded motion clips saved me the task to have to record my own mocap motions. So, no motion capture devices were needed for these combat scenes. 

I worked with the clips in the timeline in order to synchronize the combat movements… And then, I used iClone’s  “Edit Motion Layer” to edit the motions, adapting them to my current needs in each scene. After that, I used iClone’s “Face Key Editor” to put the expressions in the warrior faces in a very quick and easy way.

Working with crowds can be painful, especially when making the choreography for the combats. The more characters you put in the scene, the more heavy and hard to manage the project becomes, so I used a trick commonly used in compositing that is working in layers, but instead to do it in the post production phase I used combat sequences with few characters rendered from iClone in PopVideo format. PopVideo is a Reallusion video format that works like a green screen. Then, these videos can be used as texture for billboards and placed in the back areas of the scene. 

They have a lot of advantages… We can move them and place them in the right position depending on the camera framing, they project real shadows and they are as well affected for the light conditions of the scene, and allows us to break up the combat scenes in little projects much easier to handle.

So I ended using real 3D characters for the nearby actors mixed with Popvideo billboards showing the distant actors, previously rendered in auxiliary projects.

Using Reallusion’s PopVideo Converter application, we can also convert any Green/Blue/Black Screen video in PopVideo format, so I added some fire sequences that I combined with FX Popcorn particle effects.

Rigid and Softcloth physics applied to some props like tables, food, barrels or hung clothes put the icing on the cake. iClone’s physics engine automatically makes all the calculations to get a natural movement in the interaction between the collision shapes assigned to the characters and the props.

The Mechs Battle

Special feature: How to create a complete 360º environment using StreetView images

For the battle between the Mechs and the human soldiers I used the Mech Rex pack along with the freeby Mech Raptor provided by iClone. On the human side I used the Task Force combo that provided me all the characters, uniforms and guns I needed in a single pack and I added the Combat helicopter from the Multipurpose Helicopter pack.

All the Mech characters came with embedded performs that can be concatenated in the timeline, so it’s very easy to create very cool animations with these models in a matter of minutes. 

The helicopter also comes with embedded scripts, so it’s also very easy to make the rotor movements when the aircraft is flying.  For the human motions I used some clips included in the adventure movies motion pack. Once again, I didn’t need any mocap device to do these sequences. 

As a terrain, I just used tessellated planes previously deformed that included a normal map, in addition to the usual texture maps, in order to make the plane more uneven.

For the backgrounds, I used light emitting billboards not affected by shadows, texturized with real pictures, because it allows me to get a very natural parallax effect when the camera is moving. 

But in this scene, I needed a complete 360º background environment as the camera was following the helicopter while flying over the Mechs. To get it, I used an App called Street View Download 360 to obtain the spherical map of some areas of the abandoned island of Hishima in Japan, as it’s shown in Google Street View. I projected that image on a big sphere that had all the elements of the scene inside. It allowed me to have a continuous background image regardless of the camera motions or rotations.

In order to mask the limits of this simulated world, I added bushes and grass from Reallusion’s Botanic Pack. This pack supplies tons of tree, bushes and grass varieties in SpeedTree format, so they can be animated by wind and can be automatically “planted” following the terrain. 

To improve the integration, I used part of the texture contained in the 360 image to create the maps for the terrain, so they both matched in appearance. 

I found that the sphere containing the scene couldn’t be as big as I wanted, in order to keep the appropriate building proportions. It forced me to keep the path where the helicopter was moving inside of the sphere, so I had to trick the perspective, actually changing the size of the helicopter and its attached objects while it was moving through the path. 

I had to detach two of the rockets from the helicopter and link them instead, because in a certain point of the animation they must be released and follow their own way. I attached the “Spell Trail” FX Popcorn particle effect to the back of the released rockets to simulate the thrust and the smoke trail. I also used other cool Popcorn particle effects like the “Blast” to make the explosions, the “Mesh Emitter” and the “Collapsing Sand”, to simulate debris expelled from the ground, the “Firearm”, to simulate the gun muzzle flashes, the “Campfire” to set things on fire and the “Fog” effect to create a dusty environment.

Finally, I used the same picture of the backgrounds for the project IBL, (Image Based Lighting). Although an HDR (High Dynamic Range) image is recommended as source for the IBL, we also can use a common RGB image as well. It generates a global ambient light in the scene that perfectly matches with the background. It really makes a difference in the way our brain perceives the models, looking definitely more real and integrated with the environment.

The Post-apocalyptic World

Special Feature: How iClone’s interactive vehicles facilitate the car action scenes

For the post apocalyptic scenes I used again one of the Height Map Large terrains of iClone, this time, making it almost flat. Then, I created several scenes using the cool decaying buildings and props of the Ghost Town pack, and once again, bushes, trees and grass of the Botanic pack.

I created the background using a single image of clouds in the sky, repeated in three billboards. This time I used opacity maps to make transparent the edges of the images, so I could mix them hiding the joins. The third billboard placed in front of the other two, not only hides the join but also provides a cool parallax effect adding volume to the background.

The nice Mad Max style vehicles and their gears are from the Doomsday Vehicles Combo. Using iClone’s bullet physics engine, these vehicles can be driven over the terrain in iClone, using LUA script controllers included with the models. So, while we drive the cars like in a video game, their motions are automatically recorded in real time. This is really useful because the spin of the wheels is automatically synchronized with the movement of the vehicles while following the unevenness of the terrain avoiding us a lot of work.

I used the Curve Editor plug-in to smooth the bumping of the cars over the terrain that sometimes can be too jittering, especially if the vehicle is going fast. 

Then I used dummy objects for each wheel assigning them spring physic properties. I related them to another dummy object attached to the car chassis. After attaching the wheels to the spring dummy objects and playing the sequence with iClone’s PhysX engine activated, I got a cool effect simulating the action of the shock absorbers in the vehicle wheels. Particle effects simulating dust linked to wheels and chassis complete the picture.

I found the perfect characters for these scenes in the Survivors Pack. These characters texturized using real human pictures, came with all sorts of post-apocalyptic clothes and accessories. They can be used in combination with FX Popcorn particles effects to achieve very cool shots, like the flamethrower or bullet impacts when using the machine gun installed in one of the cars.

In this scene, I took a little extra work, exporting the water deposit model in FBX format and using a modelling App to break part of its base in several parts. I re-imported the modified model into iClone using 3DXchange, leaving the broken parts as sub-props or child objects of the main prop. I set rigid physic properties for each one of the parts, so I just had to drive the Pick Up into the tower, using the LUA controller to automatically get a convincing crash scene, automatically generated by iClone’s physics engine. 

One more time, I used the motion clips included in the Adventure Movies Motion pack, to animate the characters, in combination with other iClone tools, like the reach object feature that forces some character parts to follow the selected dummy objects attached to a parent one. So when it’s moved, the character moves as well, seeming that is the character who controls the object when it’s just the contrary.

The Assassins Creed

Special Feature: Using physics and linking motion clips

For the Assassins Creed exterior scenes I used again the Fantasy Pack Rome to build the set, but this time I texturized the background billboards with pictures that I took of the medieval cathedrals of Girona, near where I live. For the interior shots I found all the necessary in the nice Medieval Tavern pack.

I used the cool characters, clothes and accessories included in the Assassins pack. I animated them mostly using the fantastic motion clips of the Assassin Moves pack, also including some clip from the mentioned Adventure Movies Motion pack too.

Once again, I set physics attributes to some objects in this scene, so they could interact with the collision shapes of the character when he moved. In this way, all the motions caused by the character hitting the table were automatically calculated by the iClone’s physics engine.

Finally, in these scenes I liberally used the intuitive iClone timeline tools to mix different motion clips, obtaining a very smooth and seamless transition between clips.

The advantage working in real-time

iClone’s real time render engine allowed me to check the results on the fly. Working with iClone, what you see is what you get, and even in the most complex scenes with GI (Global Illumination) activated, render times are reduced dramatically. 

Not having to wait for a long and slow render process is a great advantage. Any error can be immediately noticed, corrected and re-rendered in a matter of minutes. And it gives us a freedom and flexibility not known in the conventional animation pipelines.

Giving cinematic aspect to the videos with just few clicks

The final iClone render can be improved in the editing phase using cinematic filters. I edited the clips in Vegas Pro 14, having installed Hitfilm Ignite Pro filters, so I easily got a nice cinematic aspect, just dragging and dropping the desired filters on the clips and working with their settings.

The Author

Adolf Navarro / Director at Antareus Ltd.

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